Sunday, September 29, 2013

Hungry to Help: Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser Attracts Many

by Christi Sevits

On the 19th, our group held a spaghetti dinner at College Park Baptist Church to raise money for both our group and one of our favorite regular organizations to volunteer for, the Out of the Garden Project. The dinner was a huge success. We raised $215, around $80 of which went to us, $115 to Out of the Garden, and $20 to the church sexton for allowing us to use the church's kitchen.

Out of the Garden works hard every day to deliver food to children who are on free or reduced lunches so that they can eat on the weekends, when food security is less guaranteed for them. We wanted to give back to Out of the Garden as thanks for all of the work they do. Many of our group members volunteer for them at their warehouse on a bi-weekly basis for two hours at a time to support the cause.

Preparation began at 1 P.M. We gathered and sorted all the ingredients, chopped vegetables, prepared salads, ensured we had change at the ready, and made signs directing people to the dinner - all before we started cooking! Every volunteer played an important role in making the dinner happen. There wasn't a person there who lacked enthusiasm. I contributed by chopping onions and tomatoes, and while the former was a teary process, I always enjoy an opportunity to help out low-income families like my own. I'd gladly do it again tomorrow.

Thank you to the many volunteers who helped make the success of this dinner possible. We not only have some extra money to use toward future group projects, but confidence that we were able to help Out of the Garden continue working toward its charitable goals. Way to go, everyone!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Success at the Carolinas Secular Student Summit

by Christi Sevits

This past weekend, four of our five officers and a new member attended the 3rd Carolinas Secular Student Summit, a conference where secular students from across the Carolinas come out to meet each other, exchange ideas, and learn new ways to strengthen and increase the activity of their campus' group.

In all, there were fifty registered attendees, some of which ended up not making it. Schools that were represented (other than UNCG, of course) were UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Pembroke, College of Charleston, Apex High School, and the conference's host school, NC State.

There were many excellent speakers in attendance that really galvanized us. Dr. Darrel Ray, author of Sex and God as well as The God Virus, led a workshop on leadership as well as a special session that was easily the most popular segment of the conference, called Sex and Secularism. Local freethinker Todd Stiefel also led a presentation on leadership. Secular Student Alliance's Regional Coordinator for the Southeast region Gordon Maples provided tips on how Secular Student Alliance (SSA) can help your group with basically anything - event planning, requesting funds, booking speakers, and how to get a group started. Harry Shaughnessy of the Triangle Freethought Society, which is located in Raleigh,  provided useful tips on how to successfully fundraise. SSA Volunteer Network Coordinator for the Southeast Kelley Freeman offered advice on good social media practices.

Students were also included in the speaker line-up. President of the NC State SSA chapter Nick Freeman, Vice President Jackie Fitzgerald, and Max Nielsen, the principal plaintiff of the Nielsen v. Lex/Rich School District 5 lawsuit that is challenging the constitutionality of graduation prayer, offered their own insights into what makes a successful secular student group.

The responses from the attendees in our group were overwhelmingly positive. "I would say that the conference was a fantastic way to spend my weekend. Not only did I get to reconnect with people I have met before, I also got to meet new and amazing people. It was wonderful to hear and discuss about all sorts of topics regarding to secularism and how to grow as an individual and as a group, and as a community. It was a great weekend and I cannot wait for the next one," group secretary Ryan Campbell recalls. 

President Julia Alexander agrees, exclaiming, "It was just a fantastic, wonderful experience meeting and connecting with so many new people, both in collegiate groups and off-campus groups. I came away not only overflowing with ideas, but an inspiration, motivation, and can-do attitude to get them done, where before I felt a little overwhelmed with getting things done. I will probably want to continue coming to these even after I graduate."

The huge success of the summit this year left us anticipating an even greater time at the next one.  Those of us who went will never forget the experience and look forward to encouraging more members to go next year -  it'll be more than worth it!